Why a Prime Lens Takes Better Pictures

Michael • updated July 18, 2022 • 6 min read

Why a Prime Lens Takes Better Pictures

Are you getting nowhere with your photography and becoming dissatisfied with your results? Do you want more passion and excitement in your everyday photography, as well as better results? Then try try a prime lens aka fixed focal lens.

You’re new to photography and want to branch out? Our advice: use a fixed focal length! You can only use one focal length with these lenses (e.g. 35mm, 50mm or 135mm). So you can’t zoom, but it doesn’t mean you’re restricted by it.

Today we talk about why a prime lens takes better pictures and will improve your photography.


 

What exactly is a prime lens?

Most amateur photographers use zoom lenses, which allow you to modify the focal length within a specific range.

You most likely purchased your first camera with a kit lens. These typically have focal lengths ranging from 18 to 55 mm. As a result, you may zoom in and out on your subject while switching between focus lengths.

That is not possible with a fixed focal length. If you have a fixed focal length of 50 mm, you can only shoot with that focal length. As a result, you can’t use it to zoom in.

A prime lens is very fast

Fixed focal length lenses, unlike zoom lenses, are completely tailored for their field of vision. As a result, no sacrifices are made during the manufacturing process, resulting in greatly improved image quality and clarity.

This is extremely useful in portrait photography. Fixed focal length lenses are frequently noticeably faster than zoom lenses from the kit. The faster the lens, the lower the number (e.g. f1.2 f1.4 f1.8).

The high apertures ensure that the lenses produce good results even in low-light situations. They also provide buttery smooth bokeh.

Take better photos with a prime lens

You photograph more deliberately and creatively – no exaggeration. Although having a fixed focal length may appear to be a limitation at first, you will learn to be more careful of your image compositions.

Everything is so simple with a zoom lens. You simply stand someplace and focus on your subject. However, with a fixed focal length, you must utilize your legs to acquire the desired photo.

You must go towards your subject, sometimes changing sides of the street or finding a different perspective. This forces you to reconsider your image composition.

You think about the subject more and don’t hit the shutter button as rapidly. Better photographs as a result!

You cannot shoot a topic at 10 various zoom levels using fixed focal lengths: this will teach you to capture the one compelling shot.

A prime lens is compact and lightweight

A zoom lens is typically heavier than a fixed focal length lens. A typical zoom lens weights between 500 and 600 grams. A fixed focal length is often half the weight and, of course, much smaller.

We occasionally have the camera in our hands for hours, especially when traveling. It makes a huge difference if we have a 600-gram lens or a 300-gram lens placed onto our camera.

This not only covers your back, but also makes additional room for groceries and other items.

Take more discrete photos with a prime lens

Fixed focal lengths with the camera are just less noticeable than huge zoom lenses. The modest dimensions are not obtrusive and provide a comfortable sense for novices, seasoned photographers, and even pros.

You’ll understand what I mean if you take a walk down the street or somewhere else with a 70-200mm zoom lens. You’re constantly being watched, but you may do whatever you want.

Most people don’t notice little compact cameras, therefore it must have something to do with size, right? An unobtrusive fixed focal length is frequently the nonplus ultra for people photographers and street photographers.

A prime lens is reasonably priced

Before anyone complains: Of course, not all fixed focus lengths are inexpensive.

A fixed focal length lens, like any other type of lens, can cost a small fortune. However, the entry-level versions are quite affordable and more than enough in terms of quality.

For a little more than $100 – $150, you can get an entry-level fixed focal length.

Fixed prime lens vs. kit lens

The so-called “kit lenses” that are frequently included with DSLRs or mirrorless cameras encompass a focal length range of 18-55mm.

  • This is suited for the majority of photographic scenarios, so you can get a better feel for your camera with these optics.
  • However, if you find yourself feeling “restricted” or developing preferences for particularly certain photographic genres, you can upgrade with appropriate lenses.
  • There are two types of lenses available: zooms and fixed focal lengths. As the name implies, a fixed focal length has a single focal length.
  • “Zooming” is only available here by getting closer to your subject. Fixed focal length lenses are often smaller, lighter, and faster than zoom lenses.
  • Furthermore, image quality is frequently noticeably improved due to the simplified manufacturing and adjustment for a specific focal length.
  • Zoom lenses have certain advantages in use since they provide a variety of focal lengths. This means you may take wide-angle photographs and portraits, as well as “bring in” more distant subjects, without changing lenses.
  • Similarly, you don’t have to worry about having the “wrong” focal length on your camera in an emergency. This is why “travel zooms” with extremely wide focal length ranges are so popular.
  • However, there are drawbacks: zoom lenses are typically larger and heavier, slower, and do not always achieve the imaging quality of matching fixed focal lengths.

What are the benefits of a prime lens?

  • When it comes to light intensity and uncompromised image quality, fixed focal lengths remain the gold standard.
  • They get bonus points for unique applications like portraits with appropriate background bokeh or extreme telephoto shots with high detail fidelity.
  • Fixed focal lengths, unlike zooms, necessitate few compromises in their design. They are optimized for a single focal length, and zoom devices and complex moving lens groups can be eliminated.

    Consider the Canon EF-S 15-85mm f3.5-5.6 IS USM zoom lens, which has 17 elements fitted in 12 groups

    A “simple” lens, such as the Canon EF 50mm f1.4, gets by with 7 elements in 6 groups.

  • Complex structures raise the possibility of aberrations (color errors) or ghost images. Similarly, in the wide-angle and telephoto ranges, you should be prepared for distortion.
  • Vignetting is also a common problem with open apertures. Fixed focal lengths, on the other hand, reach large apertures, allowing for shots in low-light situations as well as background blur with amazing bokeh.
  • At the same time, they are significantly less expensive than high-quality zooms with continuous apertures while being crisper.
  • Fixed focal lengths are essentially “experts” in their field of use.

What are the disadvantages of a prime lens?

  • The fact that there is only one focal length is probably the most significant disadvantage of a fixed focal length. This makes shooting a wedding with with one fixed focus length very difficult.

    You’ll need either many cameras with fixed focal lengths or a very good zoom lens, like a 24-70 mm, to cover everything from wide angle to telephoto.

  • If you can’t move around at your shooting location, consider zooms – quality or not – because future cropping will lower the image size or you won’t be able to capture your subject adequately, like in sports photography.
  • By the way, as zoom lens designs improve, the disparities in imaging performance between fixed focal lengths get smaller. As a result, you can base your decision on the shooting situation (or your budget).

ISO and exposure time

Zoom lenses’ typically too narrow starting apertures (about f/3.5) result in longer exposure times and higher ISO settings in low light conditions – the goal here is always to expose the photographs correctly.

A prolonged exposure time might cause motion blur when photographing moving subjects (such as people), which is unacceptable. A higher ISO can cause image noise and should be avoided if at all possible.

Learn more about depth of field

The depth of field, or the portion of an image that is in focus, is a useful design tool. It is determined not just by the aperture, but also by the focal length, distance from the subject, and sensor size.

These elements are all interconnected. Blur effects in images can be achieved by using a regular or telephoto focal length, opening the aperture wide, and getting as near to the subject as feasible.

Even the most costly fixed focal lengths do not achieve optimal sharpness performance at maximum aperture (e.g. f/1.4). The short depth of field, on the other hand, helps the focused elements of the image stand out more.

By the way, the most blurred regions of an image are frequently around the edge or in the corners. To attain sufficient sharpness at open aperture, position your subject as close to the center of the lens as feasible.

Create bokeh effect

Fixed focal lengths are supposed to provide more pleasing bokeh. As a result, the blur circles (circles of uncertainty) appear more harmonious.

Blurred areas are represented by rings or circles. If the background or foreground should really be more blurred, for example in portraits, then the bokeh of a very good fixed focal length looks really great.

However, because everyone reacts differently to photographs, the entire affair can only be measured subjectively. Various lens parameters, such as the number and form of aperture blades or the lenses, influence bokeh.

Read more about what is bokeh photography.


Frequently asked questions

Why are fixed focal lengths better?

Fixed focal lengths with high speeds often allow much more light to fall onto the sensor. This allows for rapid shutter speeds. Blurred background – the fast shutter speed of a fixed focal length makes it simple to distinguish your subject from the background.

Which prime lens for close-ups?

As previously said, a 50mm lens is quite comparable to the human eye, thus you can record whatever you see with it. It’s ideal for portraits and detailed close-ups.

Which prime lens  for always?

Of course, not always, but frequently. The best recommendation as go-to lens is the 50mm /1.8. It’s the genuine deal on the street, at weddings, family gatherings, for self-portraits, and for a variety of other photo possibilities.

Which prime lens is better, 35 or 50mm?

A 50mm fixed focal length lens on full frame is great for beginners. However, because a beginner is more likely to use a smaller sensor (often an APS-C camera), a 35mm fixed focal length would be the optimum answer (taking the crop factor into account).

What exactly does 50 mm focal length imply?

A 50mm lens is referred regarded as a normal lens in practice because it roughly matches to the angle of vision of the human eye. Wide-angle lenses are lenses with a focal length less than 50 mm; the name implies that the angle of view is considerable to very large.


More about prime / fixed focal length lenses:

Simulating popular lenses in Phototools
Review, Canon FD 35,,, F/2.8
Which Lenses to maximise the potential of your Sony A7
Review of the ten best Nikon lenses

Conclusion

The most crucial feature of zoom lenses is their adaptability. As multiple image angles may be swiftly realized, switching to different focal length ranges such as wide angle or telephoto is quite fast and results in photos that simply display more content, details, and moments in particular scenarios.

A good zoom lens, for example, is a terrific and dependable companion when traveling.

Fixed focal lengths benefit from bigger apertures, which allow more light to fall on the camera sensor. The overall effect is that small depths of field can be attained, and exposure time and ISO can be reduced many times over in low light settings (starting from the open aperture).

What do you think why a Prime Lens Takes Better Pictures? Let us know in the comments.

By Furoore team member Michael
Furoore Team is here to assist you in capturing the most significant moments in your life. To create exciting photographs, discover photography guides, find unique photo ideas, and limitless image inspiration.

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